Saturday, 7 June 2014

A local public services search

It's funny how conversations on Twitter start off about one thing and end up about another.

This morning I started tweeting about how we're aggregating Google Calendars (gCal) into an events search, found out Kevin Jump had written some code for pulling events from gCal too, talked about testing the Solr search engine against Google with Jason Williams, Sarah Jennings and Richard Kingston, and ended up discussing a local public services search engine with James Cattell and briefly, Saul Cozens and Tom Loosemore too.

Both the first two subjects deserve their own post, but this one's about the last, a local service search engine.

On 20 June LocalGov Digital Makers are running a Hack Day in partnership with Nesta and for one of the challenges we're looking at is creating a central resource for local governments, perhaps based on the some of the work the Government Digital Service have done.

The discussion this morning got me thinking, what if we could pull together search data from local governments into one resource. Unsurprisingly this isn't an original idea, and Saul pointed me in the direction of a basic specification for a federated search for local governments that he'd written.

But then I thought some more, why just local governments? With NHS Choices kindly giving us full access to their API for the Hack, why not include health information like the locations of doctors, dentists and more, too.

Add spatial data to the mix too, and it just so happens that the Ordnance Survey are at the Hack as well, and you've got the start of a local public services federated search.

Councils could embed a faceted version of it in their sites and use it instead of their internal search to provide a much wider range of information. Hyperlocals could use it to display local services and information which could cross council borders. It could even be included on GOV.UK. It's not about creating one central search page for information and services, it's about better signposting to public service digital content.

At the moment it's just an idea. There's a few tickets left for the Hack. Come along and help to start to make it a reality.

This blog is written by Phil Rumens, Vice-Chair of LocalGov Digital, lead for LGMakers and who manages the digital services team at a local authority in England.

The opinions expressed in this weblog are my own personal views and in no way represent any organisation I may have worked for, currently work for, might be thinking of working for, might not be thinking of working for or have never worked for. In fact having said that they, might not even be my views any more as I might have changed my mind so I wouldn't take any of it too seriously.